CSAC Bulletin Article

Housing update 8/1/2014


Congress Votes to Avert Highway Trust Fund Shortfall

Last night, the Senate voted 81-13 to approve the House’s $10.9 billion measure to fund the Highway Trust Fund and extend current MAP-21 federal transportation programs through May 2015. The measure is now headed to the President’s desk. If signed, the bill will avert the approximately 30% reduction in payments to states for federally-funded transportation projects, including local projects with federal participation, that was expected to begin today absent Congressional action.

The bill is funded through $6.4 billion in “pension smoothing,” $1 billion in surplus funds from the federal trust fund for remediating pollution from leaking underground storage tanks, and the one-year extension of $3.5 billion in certain customs fees. Earlier this week, the Senate approved amendments removing the pension smoothing measure and shortening the length of the trust fund fix and MAP-21 extension from May 2015 to December 2014. The Senate ultimately relented, however, and approved the bill as passed by the House. 

Congress will now hopefully turn its attention to a longer-term reauthorization of the transportation bill, including a funding fix. CSAC’s priorities for reauthorization are available on our website. 

AB 1720 (Bloom) – Support
As amended on June 10, 2014

AB 1720, by Assembly Member Richard Bloom, would extend by one year the exemption in current law that allows transit buses to operate over state weight limits, until January 1, 2016. Further, transit agencies would be able to continue to procure overweight transit buses under specified circumstances until January 1, 2016. This bill was a negotiated solution with the California Transit Association, CSAC and other transportation stakeholders. The extension is necessary to allow the completion of a national study of issues surrounding overweight transit buses, the findings of which will be critical in the development of a permanent and cost-effective solution to this issue.

AB 1720 is on the Assembly Floor for concurrence in the Senate amendments.

SB 1183 (DeSaulnier) – Support
As amended on May 27, 2014

SB 1183, by Senator Mark DeSaulnier, would allow until 2025 a city, county, or regional parks district to propose to the voters the imposition of a surcharge of up to five dollars on each vehicle registration to fund the construction or maintenance of paved or natural surface bikeways or trails, as well as bicycle parking infrastructure. The bill would provide a new tool to fund off-road bike paths, which currently lack a stable funding source. The author took CSAC’s recommended amendments, which allow agencies to use funding raised by a voter-approved surcharge for a broader array of bicycle infrastructure.

CSAC supports this bill as it provides a potential funding source for several types of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure that are vital to creating a complete multi-modal network, but which occasionally have proven difficult to fund and maintain under existing revenue sources. 

SB 1183 will be heard on August 6 in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Land Use

AB 52 (Gatto) – Oppose 
As amended on July 2, 2014

AB 52, by Assembly Member Mike Gatto, would provide for a significant expansion of CEQA by, among other things, including potential substantial adverse impacts to tribal cultural resources as a significant effect necessitating full environmental review. Counties appreciate and understand the desire of Native American tribes to be consulted on projects that could impact culturally-significant lands and resources. Indeed, in some cases, counties have instituted processes that extend beyond what is required by law to consult with tribes on proposed projects. Unfortunately, CSAC feels strongly that the legitimate need for consultation between county and tribal governments on a project-by-project basis belongs in the Government Code, where it could expand upon existing General Plan consultation requirements, rather than within the CEQA process. CSAC’s survey of our members last fall indicated that counties have generally considered consultation with tribes for the purposes of General Plan updates and amendments under the SB 18 process to have been successful. 

While recent amendments that attempt to make the bill more workable represent an improvement, CSAC remains opposed. We continue to encourage the author to build off of the SB 18 consultation process by including project-level consultations, upon requests from tribes, rather than expanding CEQA.

AB 52 is set for hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee on August 4.


AB 1537 (Levine) – Support
As amended on April 21, 2014

AB 1537, by Assembly Member Marc Levine, would create a pilot project allowing Marin County and certain cities within the County, to move to a suburban default density to demonstrate that they have zoned an adequate amount of land to accommodate their respective shares of lower-income housing under the Regional Housing Needs Allocation Process. The pilot would last through 2023 require the jurisdictions to report to the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Legislature regarding the development of affordable housing under the suburban default density.

AB 1537 will be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on August 4.

AB 1690 (Gordon) – Support 
As amended on June 30, 2014

AB 1690, by Assembly Member Rich Gordon, would allow local governments that are subject to a rezoning program under housing element law to accommodate their very low- and low-income housing needs on sites designated for mixed uses if those sites allow 100% residential use; and requires that residential use occupy 50% of the total floor area of a mixed-use project. CSAC supports the bill because it provides counties the opportunity to use the rezoning program process to complement other smart growth policies.

AB 1690 is on the Senate Floor.

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